It was 8:50 pm on Tuesday, when Harish Salve got a call. It was Sushma Swaraj, the former External Affairs Minister, asking him to meet her tomorrow for his Re 1 fee. For the uninitiated, Salve ‘charged’ Re 1 for representing India at the International Court of Justice in the high-profile Kulbhushan Jadhav case. Swaraj told Salve to meet him tomorrow. “I spoke to her at 8:50 pm. It was a very emotional conversation…. She said I have to come and meet me. I have to give you your one rupee for the case which you won. I said of course I have to come collect that precious fee. She said come tomorrow at 6 o’clock,” Salve was quoted as saying by Times Now. An hour later, Sushma Swaraj died of cardiac arrest at the AIIMS. Doctors failed to revive her and the official announcement was made at 11pm on Tuesday.
“She was brought to the hospital after she had collapsed at home. She reached AIIMS emergence at about 9:35pm,” an AIIMS spokesperson said.
Just hours earlier, Swaraj tweeted to congratulate Prime Minister Narendra Modi after the Centre's move to revoke special status for Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcate the border state into two Union Territories secured Parliament's approval. "Narendra Modi ji - Thank you Prime Minister. Thank you very much. I was waiting to see this day in my lifetime," she had said.
As external affairs minister, Swaraj brought a sense of assertiveness in India's diplomacy and played a key role in resolving the Doklam standoff with China in 2017. She had also played a key role in India approaching the International Court of Justice challenging a Pakistani military court's death sentence to Kulbhushan Jadhav. Swaraj was known for prompt response on Twitter to address grievances of overseas Indians She had also played a key role in strengthening BJP across the country in 1990s.
The former Union minister had a kidney transplant in 2016 and had opted out of contesting Lok Sabha polls earlier this year for health reasons. She is survived by her husband Swaraj Kaushal and daughter Bansuri.
(with agency inputs)